Do you know that feeling? When you really do want to write a new post, but – somehow – you have no clue what to write about? I think it has become such a big problem for people, that this phenomenon even has an actual term to describe it: Writer’s Block. It is a serious ailment and should not be taken lightly. When I couldn’t come up with ideas, I just blew it off at first. But after a week I did understand that things were getting out of control. So I decided to fight it and create a fresh view on things. I took the first outbound train to Paris and stayed there for a few days. I can definitely recommend this (any exotic city will do though).
Okay. That’s not really what happened. That trip was planned far ahead. It did come at the right moment though, because it inspired me to write this post!
That trip really opened my eyes and made me realize how much cities and/or citytrips relate to film. This may seem strange at first glance, but think about it for a second. Go on. I’ll wait. You see? No? Just me? Ow. Well, than I’d better explain right? First of all, the hotel that I stayed in was almost right next to the Eiffel Tower, the symbol of the city and maybe even of France. This construction has mostly become so associated with the city through film though. There is no counting how many films actually reference the thing. From the top of my head, I can name Van Helsing (2004), Le Fabuleux Destin D’Amélie Poulain (2001), Midnight In Paris (2011) Paris, Je T’Aime (2006), and Despicable Me (2010). Some of these completely focus on Paris, others not at all. Still, considering that only one of these is of French make, the result is quite impressive.
Film is a very powerful medium, and many of our stereotypes and preconceptions are based on it. This is not necessarily a positive process of course, but it is a very interesting one. It shapes our thoughts and ideas of people, usually without us even noticing it. It’s dangerous, but exciting at the same time: much like discovering a new city. Now, for me Paris wasn’t a new city. This was the first time that I was paying attention to the presence of film there – and its presence in my mind – though. It made for a fascinating experience.
For instance, I suddenly really started noticing all the advertising posters for film in the subway. I walked over the Rue d’Odéon to the Place d’Odéon, just because of the name. Turns out the Odeon it was referencing was indeed a theater, but sadly (well, relatively) one meant for plays. I enjoyed seeing the columns in the street with posters. It felt almost artsy. I visited the Disney Store (which was slightly disappointing) and the Virgin Megastore (which was wildly amazing) on the Champs d’Elysée. I went into Shakespeare and Co. near the Notre Dame, and came out with this book. I was there, in the most perfect bookshop in existence, with somebody playing Dawn from Pride And Prejudice on the piano on the first floor, and my eye just fell on the title. I had just rewatched The Breakfast Club right before leaving for Paris, and everything, in that one moment, just clicked. That amazing moment did mean that I had to live the last 1,5 days on a shoestring budget, but IT WAS WORTH IT.
Having established that a film can form your idea of a city, it sort of works the other way round as well. With slightly different phrasing. For me, being in a certain city, can really inspire me to find out more about that city. I always feel like I don’t know enough about its history, its people, its events, the museums, you name it and I am clueless. At least, that’s how I feel. That feeling triggers my curiosity-gene or something, I guess, because I found myself reading Les Misérables on my eReader. And what do you know! The next day, when really just doing some aimless wandering, I happen across the Pantheon, where the tombs of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire, Alexandre Dumas Sr,, and Victor Hugo are situated!
And then there always has been and always will be a connection between film and literature. A lot of things can inspire a good story, be it in a book or on a screen. I do believe that a city is one of those sources of inspiration that spawn some of the most amazing stories out there. I still need to finish Les Mis, but as soon as I have, I will probably begin on A Tale Of Two Cities (you know, the whole two flies one stone thing? I’m not too sure about the English version of that phrase). There is just really so much material out there, including stories monitoring a foreigner’s view of a city. These are often very enlightening and fascinating, even if they are not as epic as the two stories mentioned above.
So, what I mostly want to say, is that cities have inspired tales of enormous breath and consequence. On top of that, seeing such a film (or reading such a book) forms your idea of a city, and it might be a factor in your decision to go there. Then you will have to adjust that idea that you had and make it fit with the reality as you experience it there. In my opinion, just like literature and film are often seen as two sides of the same coin, so are cities and film.
P.S. If you liked what you read here, you might also enjoy this post of mine.